Blueberry Mechanization Pt 1
Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director, Dr. Alan Schreiber says the popularity of our berries, both processed and fresh, doesn’t appear to be slowing down …
SCHREIBER … “Something that is remarkable is not how much Washington blueberries are produced, but rather the demand for Washington blueberries keeps going up every year.”
So, Dr. Schreiber says growers are currently testing out creative ways to keep up with the increasing demand …
SCHREIBER … “An area of great interest is mechanizing fresh harvest of blueberries and we’re seeing some growers try to figure out how to machine harvest blueberries for the fresh market.”
And with the labor shortage what it is, he says fresh market growers are hoping to figure out ways to machine harvest the delicate fruit …
SCHREIBER … “Right now, all processed blueberries are machine picked and almost all fresh blueberries are hand-picked. But, there’s a combination of not enough workers and the cost of labor is just too high. We can’t afford as much labor and so growers are figuring out how to fresh harvest blueberries and this year there will be millions of pounds of fresh blueberries that are picked by machines.”
As part of a project funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative, a new system is being tested to efficiently harvest fruit with quality good enough for fresh-market pack-out.
Tune in tomorrow for more on mechanizing the harvest of fresh market blueberries.